The changing face of Saudi’s Careem Captains – and how that is helping society 

Careem Saudi launched in October 2013 and in the nearly five years we’ve been in the Kingdom we have seen some significant changes.

Our growth across the MENA region is driving affordability and choice which is, of course, a good thing… but it’s also improving society at the micro level.

We often heard people from Saudi Arabia say that there’s a pre-Careem Saudi and a post-Careem Saudi, such was the effect that Careem’s ride-hailing service had upon the country. This is especially true when it comes to the lives of women.

Before Careem launched, they were regularly dependent on their father, brothers or husbands to get them around and they were not in complete control of their daily lives. They may want to go out, but there’s no car at home so they must call a male relative or wait for the private driver who is already out taking their mother somewhere. Now if they need to go somewhere, they just press a button and a car arrives. We didn’t anticipate just how big the shift was going to be, but the Careem service was transformative.

Then this year, following the decree that women were able to drive in Saudi Arabia, we welcomed them as our first Captainahs in the Kingdom. But it’s not just women who are seeing their daily lives simplified and improved, there are also smaller, but no less significant changes as well.

Saudi Arabia is currently transforming and embarking on their Vision 2030 plan and part of this is a drive to get more locals into non-government jobs. Previously in Saudi many jobs were being done by expats, including that of driving. In 2017 regulation was passed allowing Saudi nationals to work as Careem Captains without restrictions, and from being a 94-percent-expat fleet we went in just six months to a 94-percent-Saudi fleet.

Of course, it helped that we call them Captains and not drivers, that we showed them a lot of respect and the way we treat them encouraged nationals to work with us, but it also started influencing social interactions within the country. In addition, the nationalities of passengers travelling with Careem has gone from 97 percent expat to 74 percent Saudi national.

We were told by one Saudi national that he’d spent over 40 years growing up in the Kingdom and he’d never interacted with his countrymen in the way that he’s interacting with them now because “previously nearly all my interactions with people in these situations were with expats but now I’m interacting with my countrymen.” As a result, he was getting more of an insight to a part of society that he never knew existed.

Increasingly in Saudi societies, social circles of men and women are overlapping and there’s a transformation that is happening to society at the very micro level as people are becoming more comfortable interacting with each other.

Careem has brought job opportunities and greater mobility to Saudi Arabia,  but it has also had the side-effect of improved interaction.

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